OPTIMIZE with Brian Johnson | More Wisdom in Less Time

OPTIMIZE with Brian Johnson features the best Big Ideas from the best optimal living books. More wisdom in less time to help you live your greatest life. (Learn more at
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OPTIMIZE with Brian Johnson | More Wisdom in Less Time






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Now displaying: March, 2018
Mar 31, 2018
Susan Peirce Thompson wrote a great book called Bright Line Eating. She has a Ph.D. in neuroscience and is one of the world’s leading experts on the psychology of eating. 
Before all that, Susan was addicted to cocaine and food and basically everything else — which gives her a very nice vantage point from which to talk about how to recover from addiction.
In her book and programs, she applies the bright lines of Willpower 101 we talk about all the time to the fundamentals of Nutrition 101 we talk about all the time. 
Her top two bright lines for eating? Eliminate sugar and flour. 
Don’t reduce or eat them more moderately. E L I M I N A T E. 
Susan walks us through all the reasons those edible foodlike substances act more like drugs than food and she points out the havoc they cause in our bodies. But today I want to focus on a question she often gets asked when she encourages people to make a 100% Commitment to those two bright line rules.
People often say (insert at least a slightly whiney voice): But… Isn’t that extreme?” 
“I mean, really? I have to say no to donuts and cookies and pastries and pizza and…?” 
“Isn’t that just sooooo extreme?”
NO, she says.
Cutting off your limbs because you have diabetes is extreme. 
Getting checked into the hospital one Tuesday afternoon then losing half your stomach after having gastric bypass surgery because you have a cancerous growth near your pancreas that is a serious threat to your life? THAT is extreme.
Removing sugar and flour?
Not so much.
Today’s +1. Eliminate the sugar and flour.
Like, jumbo 100% eliminate. 
Unless you think it’s too extreme and you’d prefer the alternative down the line.
Mar 26, 2018
Matthew Kelly has written a number of great books. We have Notes on three of them: Perfectly Yourself, The Rhythm of Life and Off Balance.
In Off Balance, Mathew tells us that if we want to change the trajectory of our lives (and/or careers), we need to change the period of time we think about.
Here’s how he puts it: So, the first step is, don’t be in too much of a hurry to create the ideal life you have imagined. Personal and professional satisfaction are built like a castle, one brick at a time. We tend to overestimate what we can do in a day and underestimate what we can do in a week. In the same way, we tend to overestimate what we can do in a year and underestimate what we can do in a decade.
Take a decade view. Give yourself a decade to build the life you have imagined for yourself,
one that is rich and overflowing with personal and professional satisfaction. Until you take the decade view, until you begin to imagine and plan what you can do in a decade, you have not even begun to explore your potential.”
The decade view.
What’s YOURS look like?
Seriously. Pull out a blank piece of paper. Wave the wand. What’s your life look like?
That’s Today’s +1.
P.S. From a career/income perspective, Matthew brings the point home by reflecting on how much various people at McDonalds make depending on the time horizon for which they’re responsible. Here’s a super quick look:
  • 90 second = Drive-thru clerk = $7-$8/hr
  • 8 hours = Shift manager = $12-$15/hr
  • 3 months = Store manager = $20/hr
  • 1 year = Regional manager = $35-$40/hr
  • 20 years = CEO = $10,000/hr (= $20m/year)
Note: The same returns apply to every aspect of our lives. For example, if our time horizon for our happiness is the next 5 minutes, then we’ll prioritize eating the donut, having the extra drink or smoking the cigarette. 
And, guess what? Although it’s easy to take for granted, with that approach we’re not even guaranteed a decade. 
Of course, none of us are guaranteed even an extra moment beyond this one but we want to choose wisely and our #1 priority should be making sure we’re giving ourselves the best shot to be around in a decade, eh?
Here’s to a beautiful decade view. See your Future Self. And prioritize your next moment accordingly.
Mar 21, 2018
When I worked with Steve Chandler, one of the themes of our work together was creating wealth through profound service.”
I just love that phrase: Wealth through profound service.”
Steve wrote a great book called Wealth Warrior and he’s the one who inspired me to look up the ancient meaning of the word astonish.” It’s from the Latin ex "out" + tonare "to thunder." It literally means "to leave someone thunderstruck.” Or, as I like to say, to strike with lightning.”
Steve says that most people have the wrong standard. They’re thinking about customer satisfaction.” But, he says, how uninspiring is the idea of merely satisfying” someone? Much better, he says, to ASTONISH. I, of course, agree.
All that’s nice, but how do we do that?
Well, I think the essence of it is found at the nexus point of those three circles we talk about in the +1 called “How’s Your Hedgehog?” in which we talk about Jim Collins’ perspective on how great businesses (and lives!) are created.
In short: Collins tells us we need to find the nexus point of what we truly Love to do, what we can be Great at, and what the world Needs (and, if it’s a biz we’re talking about, what the market is willing to pay for!).
As I was preparing for Abundance 101, I was thinking about those ideas and also thinking about Cal Newport’s great book So Good They Can’t Ignore You in which he tells us about the perils of following your Passion Mindset at the exclusion of your Craftsman Mindset. 
Longer chat but I don’t think it’s either/or. Which led me to sketch the three venn circles for the one millionth time. But this time I wrote: Passion Mindset + Craftsman Mindset + Servant Mindset.
I think that if we want to actualize our potential (in creativity, enjoyment and wealth) we need to truly LOVE what we do. My standard? You love it so much you’d pay to do it. That’s a Passion Mindset. 
(Of course, as Professionals we need to do what needs to get done whether we feel like it or not, so I’m not saying it’s all sunshine and rainbows and unicorns but we’ve gotta start with the Love!)
And… If we want to actualize our potential (in creativity, enjoyment and wealth), we need to be ALL IN committed to mastering our craft and doing GREAT work. Enter: The Craftsman Mindset.
Finally, it’s not enough to Love it and strive to be Great at it, we need to find a way to share our Passion and Craft with the world. And, we need to do the often hard work of figuring out how to truly create value by giving people what they really want and are willing to pay for. Enter: The Servant Mindset.
So… Three Mindsets: Passion + Craftsman + Servant.
Find the nexus of those three mindsets. Optimize the bliss out of each. THAT is how we astonish. 
And, over the long run (!), that’s how we create wealth through profound service.
Today’s +1. Sketch your three circles. Take a quick inventory. How’re you doing? What’s awesome? What needs work? 
And, most importantly: What can you do today to Optimize 1%?!
Passion + Craftsman + Servant.
+1. +1. +1.
Mar 16, 2018
A couple +1s ago we talked about taking a systems approach to disease vs. just a symptoms approach. We referenced Dr. Junger’s metaphor of a wise gardener tending to the roots.
Which reminds me of T Harv Eker’s line: In every forest, on every farm, in every orchard on earth, it’s what’s under the ground that creates what’s above the ground. That’s why placing your attention on the fruits that you have already grown is futile. You cannot change the fruits that are already hanging on the tree. You can, however, change tomorrow’s fruits. But to do so, you will have to dig below the ground and strengthen the roots.”
Here’s another metaphor and pop quiz to bring the point home.
If you had a boiling pot of water and you wanted to easily and permanently make the water stop boiling, would you:
 a) Drop in two ice cubes at regular intervals; or,
 b) Turn the flame off/move the pot off the heat?
Option b) for the win! 
Seems so simple... Yet, somehow, in a world where over fifteen million people have purchased Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, we’ve failed to implement Habit #1 to Be Proactive.”
Instead, we throw our hands up in the air at all the symptoms we experience (from acid reflux and headaches to depression and cancer) and, rather than go after the causes of these ailments, we reach for another couple ice cubes to temporarily reduce the heat while doing *nothing* to deal with the flame at the root of the underlying problem.
Option a) for the loss!
Of course, we all do it at times. Enter: Common Humanity.
And, enter: Today’s +1. What ice cubes” are you relying on? And, what little (or big) thing can you do TODAY to deal with the root cause of the issue more proactively?
Ice cubes begone! (Except for iced tea. That’s awesome.)
Mar 11, 2018
Continuing our Anticancer theme, let’s chat about another brilliant idea from David Servan-Schreiber’s book, Anticancer.
Imagine this.
It’s 1942. Hitler has amassed an army of one million Nazi soldiers. They’re pushing to take over Russia which finds itself so undermanned that adolescents and schoolgirls who have never used a firearm are joining the fight. 
Miraculously, the Russians are able to resist. But, knowing they can’t sustain the defense, their leader shifts their strategy and decides to attack the German supply lines deep within German-controlled territory.
And, it works. Without the supply lines, the million soldiers are forced to retreat.
That’s the Battle of Stalingrad one of the most influential battles of the European front in World War II.
And, David tells us, that’s the PERFECT metaphor for how we need to approach cancer. We need to cut off the supply lines. And FORCE cancer’s retreat.
Well, we talked about the four levers a few +1s ago: Environment + Nutrition + Mind + Body. 
Now it’s time for the Anticancer Nutrition chat. That’s our next +1.
For today: Whether you’re actively fighting cancer or just committed to preventing it, let’s imagine pulling the levers to cut off cancer’s supply lines.
Mar 6, 2018
Elizabeth Blackburn won a Nobel Prize for her research on telomerase the enzyme that nourishes our telomeres. She wrote a book called The Telomere Effect with another world-class researcher named Elissa Epel in which they tell us just how powerful our telomeres are.
Today, we’re going to meet our telomeres.
But first, a quick pronunciation lesson: I always thought telomeres” was pronounced tell-o-meres” but, apparently, it’s pronounced tee-lo-meres.”
Alright. With that out of our way, here’s what we need to know: The length of your telomeres is one of the most important indicators of your overall health and/or lack thereof.
Here’s how to think about them. You know those little caps at the end of your shoelaces? Those plastic little guys that keep your laces all neat and tidy? They’re called aglets.” Once they go, your shoelaces are pretty much done, eh?
Well, that’s almost exactly how your telomeres work. Our chromosomes are the shoelaces and our telomeres are the aglets.
Here’s another way to think about it: Imagine an American football team. The quarterback needs a strong offensive line to do his job. If the offensive line is weak and easily run over, he’s going to get sacked. 
Again, that’s how your telomeres work. Our chromosomes are our quarterbacks. Our telomeres are the offensive linemen.
Telomeres sit at the end of our chromosomes and keep them all neat and tidy protecting them so they can do their job of replicating themselves to keep us nice and healthy. Once your telomeres go, your chromosomes are going to have a really hard time replicating which means you’re going to have a really hard time staying healthy. 
This is why the length of our telomeres is such a powerful predictor of when we will exit the Healthspan” of our lives and enter the Diseasespan.”
The good news? We can lengthen and strengthen our telomeres. 
How? Well, that’s pretty much what we do together every day with these +1s. We’ll explore their #1 tip in the next +1.
For now, take a nice, deep breath and thank your telomeres for all they do behind the scenes.
And, know that breathing deeply is actually one of the quickest ways to drop out of super-busy fight-or-flight mode and give your telomeres some rest and lengthening-love
Know this as well: Their #1 nutrition tip is to reduce / eliminate the highly processed, sugary foods and sweetened drinks. (We’re looking at you, packaged cakes, candies, cookies, and sodas.).” 
But only if you want to keep your telomeres nice and long and strong and extend your Healthspan.
Mar 1, 2018
In our last +1, we took a quick look at Warren Buffett’s three-step goal setting process and then chatted about how it fits into our Big 3: Energy + Family + Service.
First, pop quiz: Did you do that exercise? If not, all good but… 
If we want to move from theory to practice and from merely consuming these ideas to actually deeply thinking about and LIVING these ideas, we’ve gotta do the work.
The image that comes to mind for me is a stonecutter. 
Imagine a guy (or gal) banging away at a HUGE rock with a sledgehammer. He pounds and pounds and pounds at that rock with his sledgehammer again and again and again.
And absolutely nothing happens.
Just a big rock. And a sweaty sledgehammer guy.
Then, apparently out of nowhere, on the next strike the rock splits. YAYUH!!!
Now, if you happened to be walking by that guy right when he made the swing that cracked open the rock you might think that a) the guy was super strong and/or b) splitting rocks is easy.
You missed all the tiring, potentially frustrating swings our sledgehammer guy made BEFORE he cracked the rock.
It’s kinda like Jim Rohn’s combination lock. You might be ONE digit away from unlocking a level of clarity you thought was still super far away.
Moral of the story: We’ve gotta show up and hit the rock. Every day. If we want to make sure our ladder is leaning up against the right wall and that we’re living a life of deep, authentic purpose and meaning, we NEED to show up and do the work.
We’ve gotta turn off the entertainment at night so our brains can relax and we can get a good night of sleep. Then wake up early, feeling energized as we choose to go Deep into Creative work before we splash around in the Shallow side of the Reactive pool of life.
Over. And over. And over again.
Any one session might not yield epiphanies but we’re accreting,” as Cal Newport would say, just a little more value in each Deep Work session. Knowing that, like the rock splitter, if we continue showing up and doing the work SOMETHING good will happen.
Today’s +1. 
How can you take another swing at that rock today?
Enjoy it. I can hear the rock splitting from here.